My father tells the story of his life
and he repeats The most important thing:
to love your work.
I always loved my work. I was a lucky man.
This man who makes up half of who I am,
who tricked the rich, outsmarting smarter men,
gave up his Army life insurance plan
(not thinking of the future
wife and kids) and brokered deals with two-faced
rats who disappeared his cash but later overpaid
for building sites.
In every tale my father plays outlaw, a Robin Hood
for whom I'm named, a type of yeoman
into certain clubs. For years he joined no guild—
no Drapers, Goldsmiths, Skinners, Merchant
Tailors, Salters, Vintners—
but lived on prescience and cleverness.
He was the self-inventing Polish immigrant's
By American tools into Errol Flynn.
As he speaks, I remember the phone calls
an old woman dead in apartment two-twelve
or burst pipes and water flooding rooms.
he left the house and my mother's face
assumed the permanent worry she wore,
forced to watch him
gamble the future of the semi-detached house,
our college funds, and his weekly payroll.
of Philadelphia his Nottingham,
my father fashioned his fraternity
or royal charters but a mercantile
swagger, finding his Little John, Tinker,
Wholesalers, retailers, in time they resembled
the men they set themselves against.
Each year they roast and toast
one member, a remnant of the Grocer's Feast
held on St. Anthony's Day, when brothers
communed and dined
on swan, capon, partridges, and wine.
They commission a coat of arms, a song,
and honor my father—
exemplary, self-made, without debt—
as Man of the Year, a title he reveres
for the distinguished
peerage he joins, the lineage of merry men.
|From Domain of Perfect Affection © 2006. All rights are controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA 15260. Used by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press.|